Pickled Fish Across the Oceans

My dad is a tiny, Korean man with thick glasses and mostly traditional and super reserved. When it comes to food and travels, however, he loves to explore and try new things and my mom always laments about how difficult it is to live with Park’s (my last name) who always want to run around and do stuff. Among many things he loves is picked herring right next to smoked mussels and anchovies.

Pickled herrings are generally made by keeping herring fillets in a brine (vinegar, sugar, and other spices such as mustard seeds, bay leaves) along with onions for about two days, then refrigerating the pickled herring in sour cream, maybe with some lemons. Pickled herring is no doubt considered a Jewish food, which was once a poor man’s food, now a delicacy. For centuries, herring was a key source of protein in the Baltic Sea region, and it was started being traded in the 14th century when the Dutch figured out how to salt and preserve the fish. Jews were prominent in herring trade since the 15th century, importing the fish from Scandanavian countries into Russia, Poland and Germany. Jews eventually brought it over to New York City in the 19th century.

If there is one thing my dad likes more than pickled herring in cream sauce, it would be the Korean style fermented flounder. Fermented flounder is originally from what is now North Korea, and my grandmother on my dad’s side brought it down with her when she came down to the South during Korean war in 1950s. Fermented flounders are made by fermenting flounders and millet along with red pepper powder. Cooked millet is mixed with malt powder, spicy pepper powder, garlic and ginger, then layered with fillet of flounders for 3-4 days.  Similar method of making fish is used in Japan, China, and some Southeast Asian countries, such as Vietnam.

Just like pickled herrings, fermented flounder is definitely food from the older generation. According to Tablet magazine, apparently herring is making a come back, and so may the fermented flounder!





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